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Possible Presidential Statement on Lebanon

Members of the Security Council are currently negotiating a draft presidential statement on Lebanon. France circulated a draft text to Council members on 27 May, following the failure of the Lebanese parliament to elect a new president by 25 May, when former President Michel Sleiman’s term expired. The draft was under silence procedure until 1pm today, which was broken by Russia. At press time, Council members were still working on finding a compromise and it was unclear if, or when, the presidential statement would be adopted.

It seems the draft presidential statement expresses the Council’s disappointment that the presidential election was not completed within the constitutional timeframe and urges Lebanon to hold elections quickly. The existing political rivalry between the Shi’a Hezbollah-dominated March 8 coalition and the Sunni-led March 14 alliance has been exacerbated by the two blocs’ support for opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, with Hezbollah fighting openly on behalf of the Syrian regime. This rivalry has stalled the elections and, since 23 April, no presidential candidate has received the required two-thirds majority of the 128-member parliament in six rounds of voting. The next vote is slated for 9 June.

Apparently the draft presidential statement also reiterates the Council’s call on all parties to respect Lebanon’s policy of disassociation and to refrain from any involvement in the Syrian crisis—a reference to Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria. It seems, however, that this was the point that Russia broke silence over suggesting that “Syrian crisis” be replaced with “regional crisis”. Australia, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the UK and the US all expressed a strong preference for keeping the original language. These members argued that such language had been used in at least 13 press statements on Lebanon since March 2013, as well as in the last presidential statement on Lebanon (S/PRST/2013/9 of 10 July 2013). That statement was adopted almost a year ago and expressed concern regarding the spillover effects of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon’s political, security and humanitarian situations. It seems Lebanon is also in favour of keeping the original language.

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